Entering the 2016 season there was a general consensus around baseball that the Cleveland Indians had one of the best, if not the best starting pitching staff in the American League.
The Indians saw breakout years from Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in 2015 when it seemed like the tandem starting pitching instead of just throwing.
Their stuff is unquestionably good enough to be top of the rotation starters on any team. When you put the two behind 2014 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, the top three in the Tribe rotation looked to be as good as you’d find across all of baseball.
So far this season the starting rotation is 14th in baseball (sixth in the AL) with a 4.17 ERA. Last year the starters held a 3.94 ERA throughout the season which was good for tenth in the Major Leagues and fourth in the AL.
Carrasco is set to take the mound for the first time in an Indians uniform since April 24th when he strained his hamstring while attempting to cover first on a grounder. He will be limited to somewhere around 80 pitches in his initial outing back from the DL.
Carrasco’s return comes at a time of need for an Indians team that has lost three straight entering Wednesday after taking a half game lead in the Central division just four days prior. Before his injury, Carrasco was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 22 innings for the Tribe.
While Kluber has had his ups and downs to start the season, Salazar and Josh Tomlin have done a good job keeping the rotation afloat with the injury to Carrasco. Salazar is 5-3 with a 2.39 ERA while Tomlin has only lost one of his nine starts going 7-1 while posting a 3.79 ERA.
Trevor Bauer has filled in nicely during Carrasco’s absence and has taken over the number five spot in the rotation upon Carrasco’s return from Cody Anderson.
Anderson won a starting job out of spring training but has really struggled out of the gate in 2016. So far this season he has surrendered 30 runs in only 39.2 innings while allowing ten home runs in the process. Anderson’s play got to the point where the club had no choice but to send him to Columbus for some work.
Mike Clevinger came up in his place to make his Major League debut and start three games for the Tribe but the results weren’t any better. He lasted only 14.1 innings in those three starts allowing 14 earned runs.
When you factor in Anderson’s 6.81 ERA plus Clevinger’s mark of 8.79 in 54 innings between the two to the starting rotation’s tally, it’s really hard to believe that the total ERA sits at 4.17.
With the return of Carrasco, Anderson and Clevinger will spend time in Columbus honing their craft. We all know that one team can never have too much pitching and while these two guys look like they will be able to contribute at the Major League level, neither look ready to perform right now.
They both know that and they know they have to be better the next time their number is called, and it’s very likely that time will come at one point or another throughout the remainder of the season.
Carrasco will now join Kluber, Salazar, Tomlin and Bauer to round out what some thought would be the starting rotation to begin the season.
The Tribe sits 2.5 games back of the Central entering play on Wednesday night and now with three legitimate top of the rotation starting pitchers taking the ball every fifth day it’s time for this rotation to live up to the hype.